Inspector Clueless with a Map in Umkomaas
So welcome to the quirky traveler’s experience on the South Coast. Fresh from the farm, Inspector Clueless, yes that’s Tilley the Traveller, has decided to visit the South Coast...
It was a dark and stormy night… actually it was a beautiful and sunny day, I just thought I would start my blog like that. So welcome to the quirky traveler’s experience on the South Coast. Fresh from the farm, Inspector Clueless, yes that’s Tilley the Traveller, has decided to visit the South Coast. Week by week, I will share my experiences with you and challenge you to participate… you never know, you might even win something. That’s if I can bribe people to give you something.
So first week on the job and the adventure has begun. Southern Explorer in hand. Check. Binoculars. Check. Petrol. Check. Fishing rod. Check. Beach towel. Check. Mountain boots. Check. Stomach for adrenalin. Check. Sunglasses (to look cool). Check. Camera. Check. Bucket list. Check. Ready to roll.
So I find myself wondering what Umkomaas means. Is it a cheese or traditional South African sour milk? No, it means `Place of the She-Whales’. Wander what happened to the He-Whales? Anyhow, chatting to the locals (note to self: there is always a good pub or breakfast spot on the South Coast to ponder such issues) I discover that a large number of whales once used the estuary as a nursery, giving birth in the shallows. The Zulu’s named the river after this spectacle – another version of She-Whales comes from the Zulu word uMkhomazi which means the place of cow whales. Incidentally the Umkomaas river valley is mentioned in an early chapter of Alan Paton’s 1948 novelCry, The Beloved Country, probably derived from the Zulu word uMkhamazi.
So I stand on the river bed waiting for a whale to welcome me to her turf, just a little tail flip will do – like a high five, just as the locals are proving to be so friendly with their waves and welcomes. But no whale today. Perhaps a day off or perhaps since the dredging of Durban’s harbour, Umkomaas’s own harbour no longer exists and the whales are birthing elsewhere. The harbour by the way was originally built in 1861 to export sugar.
So if no harbour, surely there are shipwrecks and songs of mermaids? With an old harbour, there are bound to be. I listen out for the songs and instead, hear the crashing of waves over a beautiful landscape and hear a toothless fisherman whistling – well, on his penny whistle anyway. What a vibe. So drawn into the past and dreams of sunken heroes. Probably given that I was standing on the beach, I couldn’t see any shipwrecks (and no, I am not blonde but intend to be one day) but I heard all about the sharks! Aliwal Shoal, nearby Umkomaas is rated one of the top ten diving sites in the world. Now I feel famous. Standing in the arms of a world renowned conservation site with some of the greatest underwater spectacles one could ever wish to come across. And yes, there is a shipwreck. I knew I was right! This famous rocky reef is named after the 3-mast ship (The Aliwal) that collided with nature in 1849 about 5km off the coast. Apparently its visual candy down there – corals, eels, turtles, fish, dolphins and lots of sharks. No wonder it’s so famous.
Umkomaas has stunning shops, little hideaways and awesome restaurants, never mind abundance of boats, cute diving instructors and wet suits. It was an easy drive from Durban, only 48km south on the N2 Freeway. Definitely worth a visit and sorry to say goodbye. I will be back … when my round trip is done. Which might take a while as it seems I have underestimated how much there is to do, and this is my first little town visited!
My photo shows my current home. But since exploring the Southern Explorer – the apparent Bible to the area, I am starting to rethink my accommodation. But an adventure has to start somewhere right?